Australian bushfires are a warning to the world | Letters | Australia news


We need help. I don’t even know what to ask for, but my country is on fire (Australia bushfires: PM’s climate stance criticised as thousands flee blazes, 1 January). In 2018, my home was threatened in the Tathra District fire. Sixty-nine other homes were lost. It woke me from my complacency and I began to speak up about the urgency of action to reduce greenhouse emissions. I spoke at conferences, workshops and protests. I told the story of our fire, what it felt like to stand and watch a red monster come for your home and everything in it. I showed terrifying video footage. The column of smoke, the panic and confusion, the sound as the fire roared and raged. I spoke to politicians too.

Nothing changed. I was told to be quiet. Now I sit helpless at my father’s house in Melbourne, in the suburbs, with fires nearby. My partner is at our forest home, 700km away. There are massive fires to the north and west of him. Fires that have already taken hundreds of homes and too many lives. He’s watching and waiting, pumps primed, hoses unrolled. The smoke has turned day into night.

I’m speaking to friends back home and every one of them – those who have stayed and those who’ve fled – has fear in their voice. Because the worst is yet to come. Lethal heat is predicted for Saturday. No one knows how the fires will behave as the conditions are unprecedented.

That’s a word I have worn to bare threads over the last 20 months: unprecedented. Because it means everything has changed in my life, in your life, for ever.

But still our governments, federal and state, with few exceptions, are pretending that this is all normal. Tragic, but business as usual. Instead of offers of real help, I’m lectured on being prepared and staying calm. But we don’t know what to prepare for, we don’t know where is safe, and asking me to remain calm and watch my community destroyed by an inferno is gaslighting of the most cold-hearted and calculating kind.

So help me. Tell my story. Tell your story. Use your voice. Do it now, today. Do it for those in the flames right now, and those who are getting ready for the flames, because come tomorrow we may no longer be able to speak.
Jo Dodds
President, Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action; Bega Valley shire council, New South Wales, Australia

At last, the Australian bushfires have finally brought home the real economic threats of the climate emergency. David Bowman, director of the Fire Centre at the University of Tasmania, nailed it when he said: “You can’t properly run an economy when you get a third to a half of the population affected by smoke, and the media completely focused on fires” (Yes, Australia has always had bushfires: but 2019 is like nothing we’ve seen before, 25 December).

Nor can you properly run an economy when your infrastructure keeps getting blown down or washed away. Or when you have major cities like Miami permanently underwater. Or when mass starvation roams the globe following continued crop failures. Or when there are hundreds of millions of people on the move, just looking for some fresh water to drink.

These are the realities of a global temperature rise of more than 1.5 degrees celsius.

The climate problem is an economic problem, caused by our outdated assumption that nature is infinite. If we are to have any chance of retaining a recognisable world we need to start charging people for the environmental damage that they cause. And use that money to create jobs for people to put it right again.
Harold Forbes
Wareham, Dorset

Reading Jonathan Watts’ article (The environment in 2050: flooded cities, forced migration – and the Amazon turning to savannah, 30 December), while Australia burns, was depressing – but it should not be ignored.

I have just read a summary of John Ruskin’s book The Storm Cloud of the Nineteenth Century (1884). He warned of the environmental pollution that threatened nature with black skies, grimy landscapes and eroded glaciers. He thought it was a reflection of a society that placed money over humanity and nature.

This was ignored then; perhaps now we will take note.
Jane Kelly
North Stoke, Oxfordshire

After weeks of articles by raging Australians, now the rage of a visiting scientist to our beautiful shores, with no political axe to grind, just utter disbelief (Australia, your country is burning – dangerous climate change is here with you now, 2 January).

I last spoke to my closest friend Susan, who lives on the South Coast between Nowra and Ulladulla, on New Year’s Eve, just before communications went down. In one of her last comments she expressed her belief that Morrison, the only person living in a “bubble”, the only “quiet” Australian, hellbent on believing in his own infallibility as a messiah to our “heathen” land, would be ousted this year.

But who then? Dutton, Frydenberg, Cash, Ley, Taylor? The appalling list goes on and on. There’s no Malcolm Turnbull in the wings this time. Even he proved to be a false dawn, deciding to put position and party before country and his own beliefs. Why didn’t he reach across the political divide to rout the factional hard right?

However, the release of government papers reveals that the Liberal party view on climate change, now a climate emergency, is not just that of a few: it runs long and deep in the party. As if to emphasise the point, on 1 January Jessica Rudd tweeted, “Is now the right time to share that when we moved into the Lodge in 2007, the sole remaining disc in the DVD player was The Great Global Warming Swindle?”

I fear, deeply fear, that 18 May 2019 will go down in history as Australia’s “what if?”. On 13 December 2000, more than a month after the US presidential election, in a world bemused by hanging chads and judicial challenges, Al Gore – with more than half the popular vote – conceded defeat to GW Bush. The world gave a collective sigh, and for the past 20 years has wondered “what if?”. I wonder if we’ll still be here in another 20 to find out the answer.
Shirley Pearson
Ashfield, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Imagine this – that we can have the good sense to respect and honour the people who have lost their lives and those seriously injured to the recent and current extreme fires Australia-wide. Many have lost their homes and livelihoods, with livestock either killed or euthanised ; there has been extensive devastation of flora and fauna, some in areas that have previously been too wet to burn. We think of all the women and men in our emergency services putting their lives on the line for this unprecedented catastrophe where there has also been tragic loss of lives, and injuries. There are innumerable volunteers and communities who are extending essential and courageous work for those in dire need, who show tireless compassion, sensitivity and ground work in their support.

We read, watch and listen as this devastation continues to unfold. Bravo to them, we say, and praise the Aussie goodwill in adversity. That is not enough. Imagine, in our honour, respect and sorrow, that we as a whole nation do something significant. One thing we could do is to stand in solidarity and insist that we do not have fireworks on New Year’s Eve (Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks will go ahead despite deputy premier’s call to cancel event, 30 December). This is the time of the year when heatwaves affect us all, when the threat of fires is prominent. Emergency services are already stretched – why waste their time and resources making sure the crowds gathered to watch fireworks are safe, or having to extinguish fires caused by the fireworks (as happened in Adelaide this year).

There are numerous global issues we are asked to and must pay attention to. This is about one night in the year. Instead of seeking worldwide accolades for our famous fireworks, let the world see we are, by this one act, in solidarity during these critical events.

Imagine…
Maggie Kitselaar
Belair, Adelaide, South Australia

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